WEDNESDAY, March 6 (HealthDay News) -- People with mental
illness are much more likely to be victims of murder than other
people, a new study finds.
For the study, which was published online March 5 in the journal
BMJ, researchers looked at data from the entire adult
population -- more than 7 million people -- in Sweden between 2001
During that time, there were 615 murders. Of those, 22 percent
were among people with mental-health disorders, which were grouped
into five categories: substance-use disorder; schizophrenia; mood
disorders, including bipolar disorder and depression; anxiety
disorders; and personality disorders.
After adjusting for other risk factors, the researchers
concluded that people with mental-health disorders had a fivefold
overall increased risk of death by murder.
People with substance-use disorders had the highest increased
risk (about nine times higher), followed by those with personality
disorders (about three times higher), depression (2.6 times
higher), anxiety disorders (2.2 times higher), and schizophrenia
(1.8 times higher), according to a journal news release.
One explanation for the findings is that people with mental
illness are more likely to live in poor neighborhoods, which have
higher murder rates, said Casey Crump, a clinical assistant
professor in the department of medicine at Stanford University, and
People with mental-health disorders may also be in closer
contact with other mentally ill people and be less aware of their
The study authors said this type of research may help lead to
more effective ways to improve the health and safety of people with
mental illness. This "should include collaborations between
mental-health clinics and the criminal justice system to develop
personal safety and conflict-management skills among people with
mental illness," they wrote.
Improved housing, financial stability and treatment for
substance abuse may also lower the risk of violent crime for people
with mental illness, they suggested.
The findings show that doctors need to assess the full range of
potential harm faced by people with mental illness, Roger Webb and
colleagues at the University of Manchester, in England, wrote in an
This would include being a victim or perpetrator of violence,
abuse and bullying; suicidal behavior; accidental drug overdoses;
and other dangers associated with intoxication or impulsivity.
Patients and their families should receive advice about how to
avoid these threats.
Although the study found an association between having a mental
illness and higher risk of being a murder victim, it did not
establish a cause-and-effect relationship.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness has more about